Polishing the Details: Why Subplots Sometimes Need Rewrites


When you're working on a long, complex project, what slows you down isn't the larger story arc, but polishing the details. In the case of a fantasy epic like The Unfinished Song, it's often the stories within the story which I have to rework and rework to hone just right.

Why are the subplots sometimes so much harder to write than the Main Plot? 

I think there are several reasons. 

One, I've known the arc of the Main Plot for a long time. In fact, I've been anticipating some scenes since I started, and I couldn't wait to write them. Naturally, those came easy!

Two, once I have my Main Plot nailed into place, any fiddling with the book has to come in the subplots. The subsidiary stories have to wiggle into the spaces left by the Main Plot, and conform to it, not the other way around. They therefore require more... fiddling.

Three, the subplots and stories-within-stories serve a dual purpose in the overall book. They aren't there only because I love to go off on tangents. That is, I do like to go off on tangents and explore the lives of my supporting characters, whose anguish and triumph can be as important to me, and to readers, as that of the main characters. Who hasn't seen a side character steal the show? 

But it's also in the side stories that I explore the theme of the book. Sometimes the side story reiterates and echos the theme. Sometimes, it acts as a counterpoint.

Furthermore, all of this work has to be done in a tightly constrained word count. The subplot acts almost like a novella or short story, and like those genres, I have to trim wordcount to make the plot squeeze into the space allotted for it. That process, too, requires rewriting.

For instance, right now I am trying to see if I can rewrite a certain storyline from 16 independent scenes to seven or eight. It's not easy, because, I love my characters and enjoy spending time with them. Yet, I also want their story to be as punchy and powerful as possible. 

So I polish and hone, rewrite and tighten. 

If you'd like to start The Unfinished Song series by reading the first book for free, click here.